Plasco moving on schedule

Local municipal leaders admitted doubts had crept in about whether construction would begin this year as planned on a much-anticipated waste-to-energy plant.

Local municipal leaders admitted doubts had crept in about whether construction would begin this year as planned on a much-anticipated waste-to-energy plant.

Those concerns were put to rest on Friday after a two-day fly-in visit from the Ottawa-based engineer working as project manager on the $90-million plant wrapped up.

Plasco Energy Group’s Sean Plaskett told municipal representatives that he still plans to start site work this summer on the 200-tonne-a-day gasification plant to be built on Red Deer County’s Horn Hill Waste Transfer site east of Penhold. The plant would be in operation the following year.

“The plan right now is (for completion in) late 2010. That’s what my schedule has always been,” he said at a meeting of the Central Waste Management Commission, whose nine-member municipalities would provide garbage to the facility, which uses intense heat to turn waste into a gas that can be used to generate electricity.

The news was welcomed by commission members.

“I am really encouraged,” said Red Deer city Councillor Lynne Mulder, who admitted to some doubts that construction would start as soon as hoped.

“I am quite surprised they are still on the same schedule. We hadn’t heard anything for quite a long time.”

Red Deer County Mayor Earl Kinsella said he didn’t doubt that the project would proceed, but wondered if the economic downturn would cause delays. He’s now confident that Plasco remains on schedule. “I have every reason to be very optimistic that construction will start this year.”

Earlier, he told Plaskett why the commission was keen to have him come to Central Alberta.

“We needed some face-to-face contact to reassure ourselves that we were moving ahead. I think that’s what you brought here today.”

Two weeks ago, Plasco announced that 57 engineering employees would be laid off for 13 weeks because of delays in raising financing for the plant because of the economic downturn. A company executive confirmed then that the temporary layoffs — which trimmed staff to 108 from 165 — would not affect the timing of the Central Alberta project.

In Ottawa, tweaking at the demonstration plant continues, he said. Significant modifications have been done in the last year, including installation of a waste water treatment plant and carbon recovery system to reduce emissions.

The process is “perfect,” he said, adding the demonstration plant is being used to push each piece of equipment to its limits to determine optimum operating ranges.

The company is also working on setting up a manufacturing facility in a converted former Massey-Ferguson plant in Brantford, Ont., to build components for future gasification plants.

Central Alberta’s will be the company’s first commercial plant, but another is planned in Ottawa and the company wants to build many others.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com